MANILA, Philippines – The government can impose “localized lockdowns” due to the novel coronavirus only when the alert is raised to Code Red Sublevel 2, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
On Wednesday, March 11, Duque explained to lawmakers that this highest alert level is raised when there is sustained community transmission beyond the capacity of the government to trace cases of 2019-nCoV. (WATCH: House briefing on PH coronavirus status)
This is the only time mayors or governors can declare a lockdown in their respective jurisdictions.
“They need to follow the declaration of Code Red Sublevel 2. This happens when there is sustained human-to-human transmission in the community. This can be declared if there is evidence of transmission that we can no longer link, we can no longer identify the source of infection,” Duque said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The Philippines is currently under Code Red Sublevel 1 after the country recorded its first case of local transmission: a 62-year-old Filipino male with no travel history outside the Philippines infecting his 59-year-old Filipina wife.
Should the situation worsen to a Code Red Sublevel 2, Duque would prefer localized lockdowns first than immediately imposing sweeping restrictions limiting people’s movements in the entire National Capital Region (NCR).
“The lockdown may be imposed only where the localized transmission or localized cases are recorded, so that you wouldn’t need to lock down the entire NCR if the sustained transmission is only within a small community. It’s not ripe for any draconian measures,” the health chief said.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself has rejected calls to place Metro Manila on lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the 2019-nCoV that has infected 49 people in the Philippines as of Wednesday afternoon.
The President already raised a public health emergency due to the novel coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Duque admitted that “problems” in the DOH’s reporting system led to their delayed disclosure of coronavirus cases.
The DOH is also “transitioning” its quarantine strategy, with mild cases being asked to undergo home quarantine so that hospitals will not be packed with patients. Those with severe symptoms will be prioritized.
Duque said hospitals that wouldl refuse to admit suspected 2019-nCoV cases may have their licensed revoked or their PhilHealth accreditation removed. – Rappler.com